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Martha Christina Rebecca Heino Taylor was not a celebrity, at least not by Hollywood’s definition. She was an ordinary woman doing ordinary things in a way that touched others deeply.

She took good care of herself and enjoyed cooking healthy meals, running, biking and working out at the gym. She ran in Santa Rosa’s annual Human Race, as well as in the Cloverdale Kiwanis Club’s first marathon, and dreamed of one day running in the Boston Marathon.

She was a member of an online group of health-conscious individuals from around the world who supported each other in reaching their fitness and health goals. They are known as her “Invisifamily” and she was able to meet several of them in person over the years.

So when she was diagnosed in March 2016 with an aggressive uterine cancer, 39-year-old Marty, as she was also known, didn’t slow down, never hesitating to reach out to others who were scared, hurting and fighting their own battles: the woman in North Carolina suffering from anxiety, a Los Angeles woman recovering from a hysterectomy.

When she was told the day before Valentine’s Day she had little time to live, she decided to take matters into her own hands and make some plans.

She told her family she wanted to have a living wake, rather than a traditional funeral, so she could see all her friends one more time. She also wanted to visit the Grand Canyon so she could check off one of the items on her bucket list.

But she died Palm Sunday, five days shy of her planned event, and well before she could get to the Grand Canyon.

One of her former high school teachers was among the more than 200 people who came March 31 to the Citrus Fair to pay their respects. Several hundred others throughout the United States, Canada, Scotland, England and Guam watched online as her Celebration of Life was live-streamed by her husband.

A slideshow with over 900 photos played on a big screen and large banners with handwritten messages of condolence and even more photos lined a wall. The Cloverdale Lions set up a no-host bar and a tri-tip dinner was served.

Marty grew up in Happy Valley, east of Redding, with her brother Rob and sister Amanda. She met her future husband, Ivan Taylor, at an exchange student camp in early 1995, but it was not exactly love at first sight.

“I met this cute girl named Martha who had an interesting last name who thought I was a complete and total nerd,” he recalls.

A year later, they ran into each other again.

“I reintroduced myself in Japanese, the only words I knew, and this time we hit it off,” he said. “From then on, we never left each other’s side.”

The couple settled for a time in Healdsburg, where she landed a job as the town’s first full-time female taxi driver.

In Cloverdale, where they lived for almost 10 years, he worked for a local fabrication company and she joined the crew at Ruth McGowan’s Brewpub. She forged many strong friendships there and was known for her consistently positive attitude, willingness to be of service and brilliant smile.

Shortly after being diagnosed, she met one of her most ardent supporters, Jozette Simpson, in an online support group for people undergoing a hysterectomy. The two of them connected immediately.

“It really helped because I was petrified and so was Marty,” Simpson said. “We held each other’s hand from a distance through the whole thing. We even sent pictures to each other of us in the hospital with tubes and everything. It was pretty amazing. I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that she’s not here.”

Despite never having flown before or meeting Martha in person, Simpson flew up from Los Angeles with her wheelchair-bound daughter to be in Cloverdale for her friend’s wake.

A friend from North Carolina said Martha had taught her to not feel sorry for herself, but capture all the good stuff and let the nonsense float by instead.

“I often ran a parallel battle to Martha’s battle … mine was with my anxiety and hers was with an ugly awful cancer,” she wrote. “She would encourage me to push through, shine my light, show up, laugh and be brave.”

Martha’s personality encouraged others to do more.

When a couple of friends were trying to think of something special to honor her memory, they riffed on her love of cats. Martha had recently adopted a pure black cat named Nero to join her other felines Phish and Gypsy.

Her friends decided to buy bulk bags of cat food, bedding and other items and donate them to the Humane Society in her name.

Michael and Anne Miserlian came up with the idea of “Miles for Martha” while preparing for a 100-mile bike ride last year in Tahoe.

They made a pact to ride every day in May, sending texts and videos to her along the way.

Because of their busy work schedules, they sometimes had to ride at night, but not a day went by without them riding and sending snippets from their travels to cheer her up.

A Facebook page called “sMiles for Martha” was recently set up for her to share medical updates, and for friends and family to post words of encouragement, family pictures, and funny cat and animal videos.

Through all the pain, invasive surgeries and failed treatments, even at the end, her family says she was still looking for the next plan of attack, while never losing herself in the process.

Ivan said her final moments were very peaceful.

“In the end, she passed being loved from head to toe, with me holding her hand, her father and brother at my side, and our best friend rubbing her feet and chanting softly while her father, Leo, prayed,” he said.

“She was comfortable, loved, cared for and, in the end, she did beat the cancer.”

Shortly before her memorial celebration ended, a PG&E transformer blew, knocking out power to a large portion of Cloverdale for about two hours. One of the businesses affected was Ruth McGowan’s Brewpub, where she had been such a bright light.

It left many wondering aloud if maybe the power outage was really just Martha turning out the lights as she said goodbye to Cloverdale on her way back home.

Contact Towns Correspondent Mary Jo Winter at cloverdale.towns@gmail.com.

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